The high cost of unlicensed contractors

These homeowners had water damage in their kitchen. They did the proper thing by talking to several contractors about their project, but unfortunately, they opted to go with the lowest bid. As their project dragged on for months without end and they realized that he was doing sub-par work, they called us in for assistance. The homeowners later learned that the previous “contractor” only had a business license and was not a licensed General Contractor.

Palmer’s Project Goals and Challenges

  • We wanted to discover the underlying source of the kitchen’s water damage and correct the problem. Then, we wanted to get the kitchen put back together so that it functioned efficiently for the homeowners.
  • Unfortunately, the unlicensed contractor had torn up the kitchen in ways that left it in desperate need of further repair: patches on the floor were uneven, nothing was done to code, and the unfinished replacement cabinet was constructed of construction-grade plywood nailed together with a framing gun.
  • Since the contractor was unlicensed, he had not pulled any permits for this job.
  • The new granite countertop had been patterned before the new cabinet was in place. As a result, the measurements were off and the slab – which the homeowners had already partially paid for – had been cut to the incorrect dimensions.


  • First, we pulled the proper permits for this job to ensure that everything was done correctly and legally.
  • We began by ripping out the partially completed cabinet entirely. That exposed the floor underneath, which had been patched with 3 separate, disjointed pieces of material. We pulled those pieces out and put in one continuous, even piece of subfloor.
  • We removed the sheetrock that he had placed on the wall to check the condition of the insulation behind it. We discovered water-damaged insulation. We plugged the holes that had contributed to it, then we replaced the existing material with new insulation that will work much more efficiently.
  • Once the sheetrock was out, we examined the electrical repairs that had been completed by the previous handyman and found much unsafe work. Wires had been pigtailed inside the walls. We corrected the safety issues and brought the work up to code. Since a circuit had been continually tripping in the house, we brought in our electrician to upgrade the circuitry and eliminated that nagging problem for the homeowners.
  • The issues with the electrical prompted us to look at the plumbing work that had been done, again over the course of many years as well as by the previous handyman. We brought in our licensed plumber and replaced subpar work so that the plumbing now functions properly and efficiently.
  • Since the homeowners were on a limited budget, we had a local cabinet builder build a replacement cabinet out of the proper materials. We then painted it to seamlessly match the existing cabinets.
  • Unfortunately, the granite company working with the initial handyman had patterned – and cut – the granite before the cabinet was in place, and the wall was bowed out by about an inch and a quarter, resulting in a countertop whose dimensions were off. We built out the wall and redid trim as needed to ensure a proper fit, then tiled the backsplash with an attractive subway tile in a vertical pattern to give the homeowner the look she wanted.
  • Since this home had hardwoods throughout the rest of the living areas, we pulled out the existing vinyl and adjoining carpeting, corrected years of subfloor issues, and installed ¾” hardwood flooring that we finished on site to blend seamlessly with the rest of the house.
  • We removed existing globe and fluorescent lights in the kitchen and replaced them with recessed cans that provide ample task and area lighting.
  • As we were installing the new downdraft, we realized that its existing pipe extended into the crawlspace and then stopped there. That meant that for years, the cooking fumes and humidity from the downdraft had been venting directly into the crawlspace and not to the exterior. We cut through the brick foundation and extended the pipe to vent it properly. We also properly ran an icemaker line through the wall that had been run through the cabinets.
  • While we were there, we replaced a rotted swing patio door with a properly flashed vinyl sliding door to prevent future water damage.
  • After they initially invested several months and much money with an unlicensed handyman, these homeowners can now sleep much easier. They no longer have to worry about unsafe electrical and plumbing work, have corrected their water damage issues and prevented new issues from occurring, and have a much safer, more functional home.